Tony D’Andrea, PhD – Director of Research and Planning at The San Jose Group
Hispanics are joining the Internet at breakneck speed. There will be 40 million Hispanics actively online by the mid 2010s. Yet, they already are the most engaged group in a variety of online activities. They create personal pages, post comments, share photos, watch videos, transfer music, read and send tweets at levels that overindex the national average. In addition to leading in smartphone ownership, Hispanics are the most wireless group in America (35% of Hispanic households have no land lines). Despite aspects of a “digital divide” across Hispanics of differing income and educational levels, this segment is up-to-date with the current digital consumer revolution.
The question for marketers then becomes how to best reach Latinos online. An initial consideration is language. As a rule of thumb, half of Hispanics spend half of their time in Spanish-language media. But consider the much smaller size of the Hispanic media space comparatively to the general market media. In fact, only 19% of Hispanics prefer to speak English at home, a strong indication of media language consumption preferences. Yet, they complain about the lack of quality in Spanish online media, and rejoice in a well-crafted, culturally relevant website. Latinos note that brand websites in Spanish often are poor micro-site translations of larger English counterparts. Latinos must navigate English websites at a cost for brands: losing the emotional impact of communicating in one’s mother-tongue. By avoid such pitfalls marketers start improving their chances in Hispanic marketing.
But translation is not enough. Hispanic websites need to be culturally relevant. The current boom of “blogueras” (Hispanic female bloggers) is a natural response to this media vacuum that demonstrates the importance of in-voice content to more actively engage potential consumers. Not by chance, leading brands are sponsoring authentic blogs as one component of their digital marketing strategies. Whether or not social media and mobile assets are present, it is usually the case that a brand website operate as the hub of a multi-pronged digital platform.
In order to be culturally relevant, brand websites must feature more than “bright colors and family pictures.” They must be designed and executed through transculturation, a process of adaptation and leveraging of general market branding to generate understanding, awareness and engagement in a large ethnic or subcultural segment. In this process, we note that Latinos’ online preferences reflect main aspects of Hispanic culture: collectivism (as opposed to individualism), acceptance of hierarchy (as opposed to equality), holism (as opposed to compartmentalization), risk aversion (as opposed to risk taking, even though the explosion of Hispanic-owned business tends to contradict that), and gender role differentiation (as opposed to similar division on labor, conduct and expectations between men and women).
There are a variety of topics that need to be transculturated in a brand website. Main ones are family, cultural belonging (or diaspora), recognition, prestige, respect and safety. For example, in the case of family, it is not enough to display generic pictures. It is necessary to involve all family members by creating multiple functional areas and distinctive visuals that are appealing to each family member both individually and collectively. It must resonate with the Latino family dynamic as it is transposed from social to digital realms: initiating with young members as mediators that introduce the website to more traditional parents, who in turn will consult with grandparents for final decision.
In summary, successful Hispanic online campaigns require technical, cultural and marketing expertise provided by a multicultural communications team. The absence of any of these skills will have a negative impact on website design and execution. This is most important as Internet hubs remain the core component of digital marketing strategies for consumer visitation, information and engagement.